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Aisha Tyler, actor and comic, comes to Ybor Improv

By Jay Cridlin

This much we know: Aisha Tyler is beautiful, intelligent, hilarious and talented.

What we don't yet know is what Hollywood wants her to be.

This decade, Tyler has served as a talking head (Talk Soup), a comedic actor (Friends, Balls of Fury), a dramatic actor (The Ghost Whisperer, 24), a voice-over artist (the adult cartoon Archer, the upcoming video game Halo: Reach), a director (the short film Committed) and an author (Swerve: Reckless Observations of a Postmodern Girl). All of it has made her famous. None of it has made her a superstar.

This we cannot understand.

At least Tyler can always fall back on her first love, standup comedy. She's performing this weekend at the Improv in Ybor City. But first, she called from Los Angeles to discuss her peripatetic career, the much-anticipated Halo: Reach and secret celebrity speakeasies (they exist!).

I'm saying this not as a journalist, but as a fan: I don't feel like Hollywood knows what to do with you.

I think that's fair, in the sense that Hollywood tends to narrowly categorize what people do, and they want you to have a very specific bailiwick. And I do do a lot. Part of that is wanting to be challenged, part of that is not wanting to be pigeonholed, and part of that is just wanting to work. I like to stay busy and engaged, so I try to do everything that I am excited about.

What's longer, the list of stuff you can say about Halo: Reach, or the list of stuff you can't say?

I can tell you that I've actually played the game, about a third of a campaign. Microsoft has this special underground playroom right now where celebrities can play the whole game. I love this franchise. I was a big video game lover as a kid, but the first Halo game was what got me back into gaming as an adult.

I feel like I need to know more about this underground celebrity video game club. Where is it?

Um . . . now I'm trying to figure out how much I can say about it. It is a press-free environment. There's no paparazzi. There are no photo ops. This is a place where you can go in your shorts and flip-flops. It's totally pressure-free. There's a bar setup, and there's food, and you can play the game any time you want, any time of the day, anytime between now and when the game comes out. You can also bring friends. If you wanted to throw a party there, you could throw a party there. And after this is over, people are going to get to play Kinect, which is the new platform. They're going to turn it into a Kinect club. So yeah: Pretty. Freaking. Awesome.

Seriously! It's like Fight Club meets a speakeasy.

It is a Halo speakeasy. And it's literally hidden! It is underground, and you need a password to get in, and it's behind a secret panel. I try to live a pretty normal life, but every once in a while, you have an experience where you say, "Okay, this is not particularly normal." When you're able to play in an underground Halo: Reach fight club, that's a little out of the ordinary, I admit.

I can picture it someday, when your star has faded a little, and you show up and knock on the door, and they're like, "Sorry, but we can't let you in." And you're like, "But I was in that game! I helped build this club!"

(laughs) That will never happen! My star will never fade, my friend! Never! If it ever starts to dim, I'll get a DUI or fall out of a car without my underwear on. It hasn't hurt Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan.

>> Aisha Tyler

The comic performs at 8 p.m. today, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday and

7 p.m. Sunday at the Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. $15-$17. (813) 864-4000; improvtampa.com. Carlos Mencia will perform one set at the Improv at 11:45 p.m. Friday; tickets to that show are separate, and are $35.

Aisha Tyler, actor and comic, comes to Ybor Improv 09/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 10:59am]

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